tv U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan CSPAN October 19, 2017 1:25pm-2:59pm EDT
their offers to be behind the scenes every time they offered it because anytime you see the president of the united states behind the scenes, you learn something about the president and you see something and it is important -- i can be there for you, you can't be there. and everything i see is important. >> american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, only on c-span 3. two combat veterans join national security experts on a discussion on u.s. military strategy in afghanistan creately at the cato institute in washington, d.c. panelists discuss the current situation in afghanistan and whether a negotiated settlement or removing u.s. troops was an appropriate option moving forward. this program is 90 minutes.
>> good morning. i'm christopher prebble the vice president for against and foreign policy studies at the cato institute. thank you for being here and thanks to our outstanding conference staff who do a terrific job organizing our many events. welcome to those of you watching on c-span and online at cato.org. following the september 11th terrorist attacks in october 2001 the united states initiated combat operations against al qaeda targets inside of afghanistan and against the taliban government that had harbored the terrorists there. in the ensuing 16 years u.s. goals have changed marginally but they typically include defeating al qaeda and other terrorist groups with global reach, strengthening the afghan government and security forces to prevent the taliban from retaking political power and denying terrorists a safe haven. assessments of our progress to
date are mixed at best. in june secretary of defense james mattis stated, quote, we are not winning in afghanistan right now, unquote. one could say it's not for lack of effort. estimates of what we've spent range from $840 billion to over $2 trillion plus over 2300 u.s. troops killed and another 20,000 wounded. a recent report by the special inspector general for afghan reconstruction noted that the united states had spent $70 billion alone over 16 years to train afghan security forces but concluded that the effort had been hampered by corruption and inadequate oversight. and the afghan government is struggling to defeat the taliban, several years ago the government controlled about 70% of the country, today that figure is down to about 60%. in late august of course president trump announced a modest u.s. troop surge and pledged to turn things around.
in his speech the president acknowledged that americans were, quote, weary of war without victory, unquote. he's right, mother americans seem unwilling to walk away but an equal number or so are reluctant to continue the war indefinitely. u.s. strategy reflecting the public's mood remains a work in progress. what better time, then, to discuss the way forward in afghanistan? can the united states win as president trump promised to do and at what cost? if outright victory is unrealistic or too costly can a negotiated settlement bring peace to afghanistan? what are the risks of u.s. withdrawal? can american secure or our vital services without a presence in the region or should we be prepared for an open-ended commitment along the lines of germany, japan and south korea. we have an excellent panel here
today to consider these and other questions. our first speaker is u.s. army major maxwell pappas, a 2006 graduate of the u.s. military academy at west point he served a combat tour in iraq from late 2007 to early 2009 followed by three combat tours in afghanistan in 2010, 2011 and 2013. pappas completed army ranger training in 2007 and was assigned to the 25th infantry division during the iraq surge. he went to afghanistan as a member of a reconstruction team in 2010, returned to the states to complete additional training at ft. bening georgia and was assigned to the mountain division where he was over troops in afghanistan. major pappas earned a master's degree in security studies from georgetown university in 2016 and he graduated from the army's command and general staff college in kansas earlier this
year. he is currently the executive officer of the fourth battalion, third infantry ledge men also known as the old guard at arlington cemetery. following major pappas' remarks we will hear from our three other distinguished panelists. michael hand long is a senior fellow at the brookings institution, also direct of research and adjunct professor at columbia, princeton and syracuse and the university of denver. he is a member of the -- central intelligence agency from 2011 to # 12. mike is the author of many books including the future of land warfare, "healing the wounded joint" and toughing it out in afghanistan published in 2010. he has also written three marshall papers, i'd like to put in a special plug for beyond
nato, a new security architecture for eastern europe which was published earlier this year. he has published several hundred op ed's and since september 11th, 2001 has appeared on television or radio more than 3,000 times. so if he looks familiar to you he should. >> mike earned a ph.d. in public and international affairs from princeton. our second speaker today is steven biddle, professor of political science international affairs at my alma mater george washington university. he has published widely writings about how modern social science can form defense policy. his book published by princeton in 2004 won four prizes including harvard's huntington prize and the council on foreign relations author ross award. he has also published articles in all of the leading journals including international security, foreign affairs, survival and shorter articles in the "new york times," "washington post," "wall street
journal" and many others. professor biddle has testified before congress including on the wars in okay ra and afghanistan. in 2007 he served on general david petraeus' joint assessment deem in baghdad, in kabul in 2009 and as a senior advisor to general petraeus' team in 2008 and 2009. he was awarded the superior service medal and was presented with the u.s. army commanders award for public service in baghdad in 2007. steve holds a ph.d. from harvard. our final speaker today is my colleague eric gopener a research fellow in the studies department. retired colonel in the u.s. affairs. his research continues include national security, civil war, terrorism and trauma. he has published in the
"washington post," parameters, news week and the national interest among other outlets. eric is a doctoral candidate at george mason university school of policy and government, he received mas from george washington university and the air command and staff college. he is the co-author with trevor thrall of two cato papers including "step back, lessons for u.s. foreign policy from the failed war on terror" which is available in hard copy for those of you here in attendance and online from those of you watching from afar. i should note that we've made available in the foyer recent articles on afghanistan by mike o'hanlon and steve biddle. eric who has organized niced this event and deserves all of the credit would like to begin by telling a firsthand story about major pappas' exploits in afghanistan and then major pappas will take it from there. >> thank you. good morning to all. so major pappas and i served together in afghanistan, we're going to go back to a little war
story. so go back in time 2010 you are in southern afghanistan for those fans of deliverance imagine the banjos playing off in the distance, it's about 8:30 at night, long duty day is behind us and we're playing the world's best video game for a combat setting which is call of duty, correct. major pappas is winning, it's him, me and two other colleagues and in comes the senior nco from our operations center and announces they have detected three insurgence implanting an i. ed, putting a bomb in the road. we go through the neck list of different things we could do and none make any sense because they are not going to get there in time, may cause civilian casualties or otherwise our presence would be announced too early and they would be gone. so max comes up with what would be a completely tactically unsound plan if it was anybody except for max and his plan is this, we know we have three insurgents we have identified, so i'm going to take a team of myself and three guys, so we are
going to go out with four against an enemy force that we know has at least three and we assume there's going to be other insurgents screening their position for them. but because max is max i read i will agree and say that sounds great why don't you guys go and do that. it's 8:45 at night, mitch plaque. max is going to don his 65 pounds of battle rattle. 65 pounds of gear is on him, night vision goggles are on, you have zero depth perception. so max is going to traverse more than a mile because you can't go in a straight line towards the enemy, he is going to go up and down a river bed and about two-thirds of the way -- because i should tell you i'm where old men go in combat which is the operations center so i'm watching all of this and i watch max cruising along, two-thirds of the way to making contact with the enemy force and i see max leave two of his teammates. so now you understand it's max and one man going against three known insurgents and i'm not
going to bother asking him any questions because i figure his stress level is probably pretty high, he's running with 65 pounds of gear and knows he's about to have a lethal encounter with three other human beings. shortly thereafter the stillness erupts. when the night concludes max and his team have wounded one insurgent, they've detained a second insurgent, third one got away to fight another day, we've safely detonated the ied so no harm will gom to afghans and our forces. may i introduce the you a dishes and intelligent maxwell pappas, u.s. army. >> thanks a lot for the introduction. i hope i can absolutely live up to that -- to had a hype. so i'm here first of all as a citizen to discuss my experiences 18 months total in afghanistan in order to share a
tactical perspective, highlight some of the challenges that are in place actually implementing the policies that we discussed in places like this when it gets down to the person on the ground, but it's not necessarily as clean and easy to do as we like to think it is sometimes at the higher levels. first of all, before we begin, anything i discuss here doesn't represent any sort of official line from the u.s. government, doesn't -- it's not the official views of the army, the department of defense, so i just wanted to start off with just that. so what i would say is anybody who is pretty well versed in foreign policy right now knows about the wars in afghanistan understands that fm 3-24 counterinsurgency published in 2006 by general petraeus serves as a guide for the surge in iraq which 2010 time frame we thought was going fairly well. and also serves as kind of the -- our guidelines for the strategy in afghanistan. it focuses on separating insurgents from the populous,
addressing grievances usually through improvement of governance and transitioning that authority back to locals. what i'm going to talk about a little bit my experience since 2010, '11 and '13 is mostly on the tactical side, support to governance, improving that governance thing while i was deployed on the restriction team and when i was deployed as a company commander two years later. perspective, this is in may of 2010, i'm sitting going to a small village, pasani, maybe 500 to 1,000 people live there, four or five miles out of the district capital and we were just ambushed and i'm outside trying to direct fire, trying to convince the afghans if they want to shoot in this direction as opposed to that direction in order to try to make sure that we are able to survive the day and i see my counterpart at the time, a person i was assigned to, he was 50 years old, he had
fought the russians allegedly and then he had continued to survive in afghanistan which on its own is an accomplishment to the ripe old age of 50. so he was the district leader -- sorry, the district chief for that district in that province. it gets complicated very quickly. he comes over to me while we're getting shot at and yells at me and i have no idea what he says because i don't speak his language. i looked at my interpreter and he comes up and says it again to him and he looks and laughs and thinks it's funny. he goes, sir, he says he doesn't think that we're welcome here. i said that is the story of most of my time in afghanistan. so what we were trying to accomplish right there was the implementation of this policy, the support to governance as we -- as we began to deploy in february of that year into
afghanistan on this provincial reconstruction team what we determined was probably the place that we could make the most money was in terms of connecting the lowest part of the government of afghanistan that the district level to those cultural and tribal leaders that existed all throughout afghanistan, had existed as the way that it had been governed for probably millenia. so it was part of that connection thing we talked a lot about touch time, touch points, making sure that when we interacted with afghans or as advisers we interacted with our afghan counterparts we maximized that time, built that relationship which gave us chances to impart any sort of information that we had on to these people so that we could be successful in afghanistan. the other part of that was improving the touch time between that lowest level of the government and the senior -- those tribal leaders. so there i was in pasani just outside of shawjoy attempting to
bring the district chief the embodiment of the government of afghanistan for all intents and purposes to most of the people in his district, trying to bring him to the village so that we could have a collection of elders there to discuss and try to determine some of the grievances that these people had in order to be able to deal with those problems. this perspective, the colonel referred to the banjos playing in the background when you enter sfwlchlt abu-l. it is the alabama of afghanistan. it's an economically depressed area, socially conservative by afghanistan dards very socially conservative group. they are very uninterested when outsiders come into their area. so when he bring the government of afghanistan which is seen as an outsider in a lot of ways into these places of course there will be some resistance. that day we fight through that ambush, just a few people, just trying to hairs us, we get to
the village and inside the village we say this is asura. the person being empowered as the leader of that district nobody shows you will to asura. that's not ago. that doesn't really give you a lot of confidence in your ability to govern. so we go all around and we round up all the houses, knocking on doors, the afghan police are going out and talking to people, not mean like in this case but bringing them in in order to have the asura. they're quiet for a while. kiyoom being who he was, an afghan man who understood not necessarily bureaucracy or governance but understood how to interact with people and build that personal relationship. he taunts them, says, hey, your ambush, that didn't stop me, i'm here. the government of afghanistan is here. and that broke the ice because that's how that works there. and these individuals they began to talk to him in a little bit, it wasn't super successful.
after about 30 or 40 minutes of that discussion we decided to break down. that was the first time kiyoom had been able to make it to that village in his tenure as a district chief. so we break down and we leave, we get ambushed again because that's, again, how that works. so we get back to the district center and we say, all right, in a week we're going to go back. he said why? we just were there. touch points. it's the idea of actually integrating ourself into there. we didn't a whole lot of money, if we did what would we build? an afghan who has survived in the desert for that long in these places. they don't need anything, they needed faith in their government. so if their primary concern, which is what they discussed during that asura was you guys aren't ever here so why should we trust the government? well, we needed to demonstrate a little bit of consistency. in a week we went back and guess what happened when we came in there? we got a.m. you wish burned. didn't take us long this time
because we knew where it was going to happen at this time at least. but we go in there and this time people showed up to the meeting. so they knew we were going to be there, they knew that that wasn't going to share kiyoom away and he was able to actually demonstrate the government is here, the government is coming back and the government is going to be there to stay. so that's the absolute baseline piece of what we were attempting to -- attempt to go establish during that period of time. so as a perspective that's not solving problems, that's just giving people a little bit of faith that somebody is there. and that was -- that was one of the major challenges that we had in terms of supporting governance during that period. so i'm going to talk a couple years later, so in 2013 i go back to afghanistan and some things have changed, some things haven't necessarily changed, but the idea of creating sustainable solutions, empowering the local government to be able to increase that connection hasn't really gone away, which is
heartening to see. so in 2013 i redeploy as part of tenth mountain division, i was part of a security force assistance brigade. so we talk about those four pillars at the beginning, going through separating insurgents from the populous training host nation security forces, addressing grievances and transitioning authority. it was the idea that we could have especially tailored u.s. military organizations that are supposed to integrate with the afghan army and with the afghan police in order to -- in order to improve their capability. okay. so we deploy and we're spread out, we have to reduce -- because of the boots on the ground restrictions we had to reduce the size of the u.s. forces. we were taking risk. we had security force teams which were senior officers, senior ncos that had to develop a personal relationship with the afghans that they were working with and they had to make sure -- because that was their
security. there's only, you know, ten or so at any given time that are walking into candax of 500, 600 afghan soldiers. so you have to rely on that personal relationship that you develop and that was one of the things that a lot of them did. so one of the challenges i would talk about is having on june 8th of 2013 when i got a phone call from my squaun dron commander he said i need you pull your teams back from the other side of the wire, we were in a base surrounded by afghans so i had to pull my teammates back. he said colonel clark and major leonard were just shot. it was a green on blue incident which if you are the news from the 2013 era that was a very significant one, however, this is of a hay through a deployment, the first one we had because we thought we had built that relationship, we had tried to build that trust. as it came down it was a cultural difference in the u.s. army, if you screw up you're told, hey, you screwed up and
everybody moves on. in the afghan army that's a challenge to authority and colonel cla, had told a recon company commander that he didn't do his job properly and so he was offended, he was ashamed and his response to that was to come back and it was to kill two senior u.s. officers in our brigade. now, if your entire mission is to go there and be a security force assistance brigade and part is building that trust how difficult do you think it is to regain that trust on the u.s. side, how difficult is it to convince yourself, hey, i need to go back out there and i need to trust these people when individuals in your element are being killed by the people that you're there to help. so it's difficult. that's one of those challenges. so when we say security force assistance we say we're going to advise, we're going to assist, we're going to implement change. our presence itself isn't necessarily enough, it's our presence and building those relationships and having the faith and in some cases just the courage to, all right, i will take off my body armor so i can
interact with you as person to person and that's really tough sometimes. so i'm going to run out of time if i continue going on about war stories. but what i would like to say, just to echo some of the points already made, the war this afghanistan it's been a struggle but it's not a struggle because of any sort of lack of effort or skill or resourcing, it's a struggle because counterinsurgency operations are difficult. it's very complex. i liken it to trying to build a house while you're getting shot at. if i'm getting shot at it's not that big a deal but i have the carpenter that knows how to build the house if he's getting shot at it will disrupt his job. the technical experts you need to get to the locations in order to do the technical difficult jobs, they are not always available. so what you end up having like with myself and kiyoom is the 26-year-old infantry captain who is advising him on how to run a district. it's not necessarily what we call the wheelhouse.
so i don't necessarily know all the ins and outs of the bureaucracy, same as, you know, if i was responsible for going through and building a house, i'm going to build a house, it will look like a house, it won't necessarily have all the parts inside, the plumbing and electricity might not be right. we have people that are building the house in afghanistan, helping support this garch nance, help build this country back up from the shambles it's been in and sometimes all the bureaucracy doesn't work right because we don't necessarily have the ability to get the state department or those technical experts on how the government works into the places in order to, you know, make sure our fiscal policy is good or make sure something else is working properly. it's difficult. when you add on the social, you add on on the cultural differences and the language difficulties if you don't have an interpreter, for instance, who is very good, then you could spend months having conversations with somebody where nobody knows what you're saying.
so what i would like to say is the u.s. army and the military isn't always the best tool for producing -- or for rebuilding a nation, but oftentimes it's the only one that we have. and so we owe it to ourselves and to the u.s. people, to the people who are actually sacrificing, colonel leonard, or two of my soldiers, sergeant fike and sergeant hoover who are trying to rebuild. i'm hoping that some of my discussions and some of the discussions on the panel such as this actually help improve that and improve the quality of our decisions that we're making so that those war stories usually have happy endings rather than somewhat sad ones. thank you very much. i appreciate it.
[ applause ] >> major, those were moving remarks and very informative. good morning, everyone. thank you, chris, and all of you for the opportunity to be here. it's a privilege to be part of this important discussion today. one quick note, on baseball, today's an important day in washington. baseball i just want to be the first to say, i'm sure i'm not the first that even if the nets don't have a good postseason, you want to applaud them on a great season. it's been a wonderful baseball season. i also want to ask our cubs fans how greedy can you be? two world championships you're after now in 107 years? isn't one enough? i want to make a plea they make a little faux pas tonight. on afghanistan i am not greedy. i am look for some stellar outcome. to me even though i support the mission and support president's trump's decision to reinforce it, i'm sure i'm not necessarily in the majority on this panel in that view, but woe'll hear from
others and from you in the course of conversation. i do support that, but i think the stakes in afghanistan are frankly more modest and they well back down to making sure we're not attacked again by a plot that's largely hatched or planned or organized on afghan or south asian territory as we were on 9/11. another way to put the same sort of idea is that i hope that our press ne presence in afghanistan, which may have to last i'm afraid for many more years, can be sort of our eastern flank in a broader region wide struggle against violate extremism which i expect to be a generation long struggle. and had a privilege of writing a op-ed making that same argument. this is a generation long struggle against extremism and we need some strongholds to wage that successfully and the afghan presence is the most logical
place in south asia. i actually see in some ways the presence in south asia not as a nation building effort and not simply bailing out a sinking ship of the afghan state, but actually a strategic asset for the united states. because this -- if you essentially assume the existence of this ongoing violent extremist threat throughout the broader middle east, you're going to need assets to deal with. that you're going to need some locations from which you can handle that threat. now, we'll come back to the issue of negotiations later. if the only thing standing in the way of a truly viable peace deal with the taliban was an american willingness to leave south a sharks i would probab-- i would be willing to consider that. at the moment i would like to turn the logic away from viewing this as a nation building enterprise and argue this is creation of an american strategic asset in an important part of the broader central command theater. so my first point is just to
underscore how i see the stakes and the broader strategic purpose here. i want to do four more things briefly before turning over to steve biddle and scott and then a discussion here with all of you. i want to talk about what are ra realistic goals for president trump's new strategy that's been fleshed out by recent congressional testimony by secretary mattis and general dunford. what are realistic goals? what are the main concepts, the main things we're doing that hopefully can help us achieve realistic goals? how long will it take and then what's the role for negotiation? so again, beyond the question of streak stakes that i've already touched on, what are more realistic operational goals? what are the main concepts for what we're doing with these added resources on the ground? what are the timelines we have to think about for this kind of a strategy to have any chance?
and then finally, what if any role can we aspire to for negotiations with the taliban and the afghan government n. terms of realistic goals and chris in his introduction alluded to the kinds of things i want to talk about here. he mentioned that by u.s. intelligence estimates as repeated by the special inspector general for afghan reconstruction which does these reports every few months that you can find on the web if you want to read more that there's an estimate now that the afghan government only controls about 60% of the country. i think to be more precise, that's actually the right broad number and none of these estimates are exact anyway. but the report itself says that 57% of the territory and 62% of the population are essentially under government control. another 10% or so is under talib taliban control. the remaining 30% or so is contested. that is a deterioration over the last half decade and especially over the last two to three years
from an earlier figure of the government having maybe 70% to 72% estimated control of the territory and population. so what i would hike to see as a realistic goal that i think president trump could possibly achieve in his first term is to reverse the momentum or the direction by which those numbers are changing. so if we've gone from roughly 70% government control to 60%, i'd like to see us aspire to 65% to 70% again under government control by the end of 2020. general john allen and i wrote about that more recently after president trump gave his summertime speech on afghanistan policy endorsing this kind of a standard as one we thought was attainable. that may sound sort of like splitting hairs, you know, a different shade of a mediocre stalemate and we can certainly have that debate. i'm sure some people here will want to have that debate today and we should as i say. a lot of what's been happening in afghanistan is a function of
psychology and perceived momentum. the taliban think they're winning which by the way is part of why i'm not very hopeful about a near term negotiation option. i don't think they're going to negotiate for anything less than what's essentially a surrender in the government of afghanistan today so i think we have to change that perception if we have a hope for realistic negotiation. also the pakistani intelligence services which are continuing to aid and abet or at least condition docondone the taliban as i think they've already testified to this week in washington. if we're going to try to change the calculus of the pakistani intelligence which is a daunting proposition, we have to show that defeat feof the afghan government is not inevitable, that there's a realistic chance that the taliban can be held off, even as nato has now downsized dramatically since the peak of forces back in the
period when we got up to nearly about 100,000 u.s. troops and nato led troops. now we're down to a number about 10% of that figure, somewhere around 15,000 total. we're probably headed up to 22,000 with the current trump strategy. we're still going to be smaller but i think have enough capability of having a decent chance of revursiersing this momentum. that's the goal we should be hoping for. there would be important effects on the taliban, on the pakistani forces that support the taliban and certainly on afghans, many of whom have been leaving the country after a lot of them came back after 9/11. it's been trickling out in this period of declining morale because there has been this sense of gradual slippage. that the country is gradually being lost. and i think if that could be
changed, you could reverse the flow also of the young afghans, many of whom i've met and admired greatly who are trying to build a new country. and they have a lot of work ahead of them for all the reasons that max got at. but i think they have a chance. as long as they believe in the mission and they stay to complete it. when i say mission here, i'm talking obviously much more broadly than a military mission. those are two me the realistic goals. i can't prove they will be achieved by president trump's new strategy. i do think it's important to caution, even as an advocate and supporter of that strategy, that the president's talk of victory is to my mind unrealistic and probably not even productive because it raises expectations too high. but i have a lower set of standards that i think may be attainable and that would be important if we could achieve them. so what are we going to do with these extra forces? first let me clarify the numbers a little bit further. i know there are a lot of numbers dancing around out there. those of us in the unclassified
world don't necessarily know the exact numbers anyway. that's partly deliberate. secretary mattis has been very clear as has president trump. however, we do know a fair amount about the current troop configurations and now what will happen with the reinforcements. so up until president trump's speech this summer, we had about 8,400 americans in afghanistan in uniform according to the official numbers. we've gradually learned over the years that there have been probably up to 4,000 additional temporary forces on any given deployment, any given time. so the u.s. number has really been probably around 12,000 in the last year or two even though the official number which is really the people based there for seven to 12 months has been 8,400. so we've been at about 12,000 u.s. and another 5,000 nato and nato partner countries. so roughly in the range of
18,000 total foreign forces. that number is apparently growing by up to 5,000. we're going to be somewhere between probably 20,000 and 24,000 total foreign troops as these reinforcements arrive in country. that's still only one/sixth to one/seventh the number we had at peak back when steve helped with the strategic review and the aftermath of that period when i had the privilege to travel with him a number of times to afghanistan myself. in that period of time it was amazing to see what people like max were doing on the ground and you also had to acknowledge even as a supporter of the mission that these guys often deserve better than they were getting from their afghan partners, from their american political system, what have you. but i still thought that they accomplished a fair amount and there is in many ways now the basis for at least some modest progress towards the standards i
outlined before. you might say, however, if you're a skeptic and i suspect there are a few here, why can we get done with 20,000 what we couldn't get done with 150,000. very fair question. i think what they're going to do is get out in the field as combat advisers to afghan units that are in contact with the enemy. this does raise the risks for american forces who have largely been confined to headquarters and training facilities in the last couple of years. there's now going to be a larger number out in the field. sort of the way we've been operating in iraq in the fight against isis the last three years. so there will be more of that. and many of these units in the afghan army and police have very, very young leadership. it hasn't really gotten that strong yet because a lot of their leadership was politicized. i think it's gradually reforming and improving, but we sort of skipped over a step of being out there in the field mentoring
with them when president obama accelerated the draw down in decisions he made. so we haven't really done this phase of being out in the field mentoring. i think that can make a substantial difference. also we haven't had free use of american air power. it's been restricted to cases where american forces were under direct threat. now secretary mattis, president trump, general nicholson on command in afghanistan are going to allow nato air power to be used more routinely in fights against the taliban even to support afghan army units who are the ones, of course, leading that fight today. so air power and mentoring are the main things we'll be doing differently than we have been. more expansive use of air power. let me finish up. i've already touched on the timelines issue and the negotiation issue so i can summarize by saying the following. i think this will be an indefinite mission, not necessarily at the level of 24,000 foreign troops but i think i would be less than honest with you as a person who support this is operation and has tried to think through some
of its longer term dimensions if i didn't acknowledge it could be a decade or more. i use the preexpression a generation long struggle. if we mini surge, we can come home in 2022. i have no such promise and you shouldn't support this strategy if you have that as a requirement, that we would be able to come home let's say within five years. i don't think a complete departure is going to be in the cards in that time frame. i hope we can return to the path of downsizing. there are variables. what does pakistan do in terms of sanctuary for the taliban? what role do we see with isis and al qaeda? there are a number of things we can't steketch out. there whether's a good election for the presidency in 2019. whether the process of fighting
corruption that i think the president has made progress in conducting. i was struck that cigar is pretty good at rotting out and vetting out corruption when they see it. they acknowledge that some of the procurement reform strategies the afghan used have made substantial head way in their recent report from last s winter f. we c winter. finally and to conclude in terms of those who are hoping for negotiated outcome with the taliban and steve may or may not speak to this, i am a full supporter of that as long as it's not a surrender. and right now i fear that the only kind of deal that might be doable with a group that thinks it's winning is effectively a surrender. if it becomes a power sharing arrangement, if it becomes giving them certain things in the southeast that are monitored or under their control, i'm open to that kind of framework.
i just fear right now we have to reverse that battlefield momentum before we can be there and have a realistic chance. i hope president trump's strategy might get us to that place of reversing momentum. thank you. [ applause ] mike has kindly handed to me the negotiation portfolio because that's the easy part of this issue area. i'm happy to talk about negotiation, but it's important i think to set it into a little bit of context first. after 16 years of this conflict or range of plausible out comes and -- the range of plausible u.s. options is a lot narrower than it was. and i suspect the panel will agree we're not going to get anything that would conventionally look like military victory in afghanistan regardless of what policy choice we adopt. when the president talks about victory, i suspect either he
isn't thinking very hard about what that means. probably not a fan of the 19th century oppression who talked about defining victory and defeat in terms of political objectives or destroying the enemy. we're not going to destroy the enemy. i think the range of plausible outcomes for this campaign at this point is somewhere between the collapse of the afghan government and a return to 1990s civil warfare. and a compromised negotiated settlement that does not look like a taliban surrender instrument either. that involves us giving something and them giving something. that's where the range of plausible outcomes lie at the moment. and the range of initiatives that the united states could adopt to pursue getting closer to the likely hood of a negotiated settlement that involves some sort of compromise or simply sacrifice of all the interests that are engaged
amounts to somewhere between complete withdrawal, which is a plausible choice for the united states, and something that looks like 24,000 troops on the ground to advise, air strikes, and an expenditure from the u.s. treasury of something on the order of 15 to $30 billion a year or soto support that effort for as long as it takes to get a negotiated settlement that we can live with, which is not going to happen in six months or a year or even two. a negotiation this complicated is going to take quite a while to unfold. now, you could reasonably ask are any of those outcomes worth that scale of expenditure to obtain? and i think i suspect also the panel probably agrees that the scale of u.s. interests engaged in the conflict is somewhere in the real limited neighborhood. the stakes that the united states faces in afghanistan today involve some combination
of the use of afghan territory as a base for terrorists to attack us, as mike pointed out, that is a real problem, but it is not a problem that's unique to afghanistan. there are lots of pieces of real estate around the world where al qaeda or the islamic state or any of dozens of other violent militant groups that mean us ill aren't now but might be in the future if the way we're going to deal with this generation long problem of how do we cope with violent extremism is we're going to spend $30 billion a year and send 24,000 soldiers everywhere they might be in the future but aren't now. we're going to run out of dollars and soldiers a long time before violent extremists run out of real estate. i tend to suspect that the more compelling american stake in afghanistan is regional stability, which is code language for whether pakistan collapsed or not.
pakistan is right across a border in the form of the line from afghanistan, the ethnic group primarily a soeshltassoci with the taliban insurgency. and pakistan is engaged in an insurgency and a counter insurgency war of its own that by some metrics isn't going terribly well for them. if the pakistanis lose their war, then a nuclear weapon state with a large and growing nuclear arsenal and dozens of violent extremists groups that don't like islamabad and don't like washington could then plausibly be a setting in which the military and intelligence services break up if the state loses its war and collapses and that creates some danger that an actual usable nuclear weapon could fall in the hands of terrorists that might use them against ourselves or our allies.
that's a real threat to u.s. national interest. and collapse on the afghan side of the duran line could accurate base camps in afghanistan by which militants in pakistan might pursue an agenda that is potentially quite dangerous to the united states. although that's a real problem for us, note that would require a whole series of uncertain events breaking badly for us in sequence. the u.s. counter insurgency campaign in afghanistan would have to fail. the afghan government would have to fall. pakistani insurgents would have to set up base camps. that would have to tip the pack -- they lose control of their nuclear arsenal. that's not an impossible sequence of events. the compound probability is probably less than 50% and maybe a lot less than 50%.
if it happened, it would be a disaster for u.s. interests of historic magnitude, but it's a low probability chain of events. what then are we willing to invest in afghanistan to have some marginal influence, not a guarantee of success if we succeed in afghanistan. pakistan might lose its war anyway. to have some marginal influence in reducing the likelihood of this chain of bad events going badly. and that's a judgment call that reasonable people can make differently. in the past i've been supportive of the war because i think low probability events, if they're ugly enough, and this one is way up there in the ugly scale, are worth some degree of investment. reasonable people can make that judgment call differently depending on your risk tolerance, which as an analyst i can't tell you what your risk tolerance would be. some of you are probably
invested in the stock market. some of you may be washington gnats fans. there may be variations. what i can tell you is i think on the merits, it's a relatively close call. if you decide that you're willing to incur that risk, or you're willing to incur that cost to reduce that risk, what is the sensible way to reduce the risk the most for the money that we spend? part of the plausible policy agenda open to us at the moment is reinforcements to the advisory effort and a change in the rules of engagement for the use of air power. especially the latter could be quite helpful. the other important avenue that is open to us that is actually not terribly expensive in financial terms is to actually get serious about the negotiating process. we are not going to defeat the taliban. and the adviser effort is not going to enable the afghan
government to defeat the taliban. with some combination of the advisory effort, american air strikes is [ applause stroke, make it a bit more shallow, maybe even make it a little bit positive. we're not going to kick the taliban out of the country. we probably are not going to see a taliban takeover even if we don't reinforce. the taliban have shown some but very limited ability to penetrate urban areas. my guess is either way what we're talking about is something that most people would describe as a stalemate and the issue is what variation on stalemate do we want? i tend to be pessimistic on what security assistance can do. i don't think the central barrier to the performance of the afghan national security
forces at the moment is how much training their junior officers have. i think the primary barrier to the performance of the afghan national security forces are profound, structural issues having to do with the institutionalization of the afghan state and the consequences of that for military performance. more on that in just a moment. where i think our policy probably has the most marginal influence on out comes is with respect to the way we handle the problem of negotiation. any outcome better than afghan state collapse and return to 1990 style civil warfare amounts to a negotiated settlement. what the military campaign is doing between now and whenever that happens or doesn't happen is we're just changing at the margin the terms of the settlement that will result. so settlement is the only alternative to outright defeat,
failure, and rolling the dice to see what happens to pakistan if the afghan government actually collapses. that in turn means that if we're going to spend money and if we're going to send troops and if we're going to risk american lives and the advisory campaign we have to be serious about the settlement process. that's the only point of doing this. and yet we have no assistant secretary of state for south asian affairs as an acting official. we did away with the special representative for afghanistan and pakistan whose job description was to act as czar for development of a negotiating strategy. the conduct of the campaign in afghanistan as far as i can tell, and this goes all the way back to when mike and i were traveling there and back to my time on general mccrystal's assessment team has never been
conceived of as the military arm of a combined military negotiating strategy. what we have had, and i think unfortunately continue to have is a campaign plan that looks like let's create the best trajectory we can for government control over time and at some unspecified point in the some unspecified future there will be some unspecified negotiation that will exploit this military result to produce a better partition of the state than we would get without it and i don't personally think that is responsible policy for a democracy that's killing people in the name of the state and spending tens of billions of dollars in the project. i think we can reasonably demand of a our government some articulation of what is the strategy for getting to a negotiated settlement and
serious effort not limited to but including staffing out the relevant parts of the government that would be required to actually get a negotiation that could justify the scale of expenditure and this scale of expund te expenditure of human life. the one element i will add to the agenda of what's required for surneeriousness in the negotiation is it's going to require some horse trading on capitol hill by an administration willing to spend political capital rather than just money on this war and on this campaign. as we saw in 2012 in the obama administration did this kind of semi deal with the taliban wherein exchange for them giving us the unfortunate sergeant, their one captive, we were going to release a small number of taliban detainees from quan tan mo bay. when that was announced, capitol hill melted down. there was huge opposition.
how can you release these terrible terrorists. the obama administration got cold feet, withdrew the teal. the taliban concluded we were bad faith negotiators. the talks collapsed and went into deep freeze from which they have only very imperfectly recovered. reasonable people can disagree over whether or not even with a properly staffed negotiating strategy, even with some willingness to build a constituency on capitol hill so another taliban deal meltdown doesn't happen whenever compromise negotiations with the taliban are revealed. reasonable people can disagree about whether if you make a serious effort you can get a deal. i'm on the optimistic spectrum. mike may be less so. it's all important towards
discussing. but if you are not somewhere on the reasonably optimistic end of that spectrum with respect to the negotiating prospects, steady as she goes is not a viable strategy. because it's not going to win the war. all it can do is tee up a settlement. if the settlement isn't coming, we ought not be doing this. what we've got at the moment in my view is dangerously close to steady as she goes and hope for miracle. keep the war on life support. maintain the stalemate. prevent the taliban from gaining momentum. and expect that sometime in the future somehow in a way that we're not going to articulate we'll get to a settlement that lots of people are skeptical can occur. that i don't think is responsible policy for democracy. i think we reasonably should ask more of a leaders in terms of articulating the logic by which
our expenditure and our military skpef effort and our advising produce a settlement that's better for us than simply government collapse in kabul. [ applause ] >> hope for a miracle is probably a good segue for what i'm going to talk about. so 2001 the taliban is in control of afghanistan. freedom house assess the country as now free. 2017 after 16 years of significant efforts, freedom house assesses afghanistan as not free. transparency international rates the afghan government as more corrupt than 96% of all governments in the international system n. addition to being corrupt, the afghan government and its security force are incompetent. the taliban currently control or
contest approximately 45% of the country. more than at any other time since they were last in power in 2001. and regarding a threat to the united states of america, the taliban themselves have obviously never conducted a strike in the home land and al qaeda, which has conducted a strike in our homeland and did enjoy sanctuary in afghanistan has not conducted an attack since 2009 and that was the unsuccessful botched mission by the underwear bomber. if you're talking about safe havens, al qaeda can currently be found in pakistan, somalia and yemen. very few fighters are you going to find in afghanistan. for this reason, i'm going to argue it's long overdue for the withdrawal of military forces. two arguments are, one, the threat does not warrant our continued press neence in afghanistan. and two, the strategy we've used for 16 years which is the world's most exquisite, most capable military force, this
giant wonderful shiny hammer is marauding muslim majority shakes and hoping that all we kill was the terrorists and not somebody else. the threat does want justify our presence in afghanistan. here's a chart of 50 years of data on exactly how many americans are murdered each year in the homeland. question for today is how many of them are murdered by islamic inspired terrorists and how many of them are murdered by someone else? obviously the green bar suggests it's always someone else who does the murdering in the united states. not islamic inspired terrorists. in one year can you detect the terrorists and that's 2001. i want to talk about the terror attacks on 9/11. those attacks were unprecedented. had not ever seen did in history prior. we have not seen it since.
it's an outlier event. twice as many human beings perished that day than any in other terror attack in history. it's important to know large scale terror attacks almost never take place in the west, in north america, much plless in t united states of america. our worst one was in 1995 when he killed 168 in oklahoma city. the second most severe is in north america and that's going back 32 years when they blowup an air india flight killing 329. all large scale major terror attacks take place in failed or war torn states. it's also important to note that in 2001 our home lland security efforts were much different than
than they are today. all the hijackers made it into our country legally using their real identities. all of the pilots received their training here. the idea that they received training in afghanistan, the technical training was done in the united states of america. and it was done in plain sight. one of the hijackers lived with his flight instructors. i'm not trying to be glib. two of the hijackers left the united states on vacation and argued their way back into our country by assuring american ins agents that they were authorized to be here because they were students, specifically they argued we are pilot training students. that's not on the american system. it's to say it was a different time. i'm trying to drive home the point they operated as freely in the united states as they did in any other safe haven. so if your concern is safe havens, we've eliminated the most important one and that's the united states of america. there are terrorists who still seek to harm america.
my assumption is there always has been, there always will be. you can make an argument that the terror threat today is more intense more than previous terror campaigns been. but they're limited what they can do. they're limited because of homeland security efforts. not because of military efforts abroad. our military centric combat power to solve this approach is clearly not working. the first argument that you're all going to have heard is that we need to protect americans. the way we're going to do it in a post 9/11 is take the fight to the enemy. kill and capture them overseas so they don't come into the homeland tomorrow. you're got more than 30 years of data. the main point is on average a fraction, less than one, islamist inspired terror a take takes place on any given year
for the past three decades and they kill only a handful. every lost life is tragic. but in comparison to the numbers each year we kill and this is regular americans murdering each other t doesn't seem to cause as much concern. every year you have more than 15,000 americans killed by another american. and somehow one is much more concerning than the other. the second argument we hear is we must destroy and defeat al qaeda. early on it was al qaeda and all terror groups. at the time according to our state department and a group out of stanford, there were approximately 13 such groups. al qaeda was of course number one. they had approximately 32,000 members, followers, potential fighters. 16 years we've invaded two countries. we've toppled three regimes and conducted military strikes in seven nations and the response is now we have 44 of those 44 groups that we're facing to include the islamic state
numbering nearly 110,000 adhereens. so if someone wants to make the argument of how the military strategy is doing well i would love to hear that in the lunch session. the logical implication is all of our military efforts have not achieved the main goal that we're looking at. this is a sub point to the previous. we've conducted military strikes on seven muslim majority countries. you're supposed to be able to see three bars here. a bar that represents the average number of attacks in the 14 years prior to 2001. a bar for 2001. then a bar for the 14 years after 2001. with the exception of pakistan, you only see the bars afterwards. all the terror activity that we're experiencing today did not precede but followed u.s. military strikes and the u.s. military strategy to combat the war on terror. all right. so i want to switch to my final point.
this is a linked argument. you'll hear people say that we're in afghanistan to prevent the taliban from returning to power. we need to surge forces to arrest the momentum that was spoken of earlier. and that's linked to the idea that if the taliban returns to power, afghanistan will again be a safe haven for terrorists. so i want to make -- first of all, i think that argument is dubious on levels but i want to make two points. the taliban back in 2001 controlled or contested almost the entirety of the country. they did that with 35,000 security forces. 16 years later afghanistan has 382,000 member security force and they are barely able to control or contest half of their country. in addition to have more than ten times than what the taliban had 16 years ago, they've had us fighting for them. i can assure you for many of the years we were doing the fighting. then wiee were fighting alongsi. equipping billions of u.s.
dollars going in. billions of u.s. dollars going in to try to get the economy going because that's an assumption underlying some of the grievances that max spoke of early. then my final point is if you're concerned -- not trying to be snarky, but if you're concerned about safe havens, afghanistan is at the back of the line. the current terror safe havens for groups like that are not in afghanistan. they're in syria, iraq, nigeria. a total of seven countries before you worry about afghanistan. if the safe haven argument is a compelling one, there's plenty of other places we should be directing our attention rather than afghanistan. so in conclusion, my primary argument is the withdrawal of u.s. force system long overdue. the threat to americans here in the homeland does not warrant our military presence there in afghanistan. and then the second point is the military strategy that we've emphasized has clearly failed to achieve the objectives.
thank you. [ applause ] >> so what i have managed to do as a moderator is to cut into my own time. but it was because i enjoyed listening to these four presentations. i don't feel that badly about it. i do want to leave sufficient time for those of you in the audience to ask a few questions. i just want to pick up -- i am going to exercise my privilege on just one point. i want to come back mostly to steve biddle's remarks. because i agree with him that the prospect of a negotiated settlement being acceptable politically here in the united states is vanishingly small. the concessions that the united states made to the taliban as part of the bergdoll trade which steve referred to are so much
less than the concessions that we would be parties to in the event of a negotiated political settlement in afghanistan that left the taliban at least as partners in some sort of power sharing agreement in the government. so this is a question for the panelists as well as for those of you in the audience and watching online. will we americans ever be willing to tolerate something in afghanistan that does not look like unadult rated victory which all four of the panelists have said sent a realistic prospect and if we americans are not willing to accept anything less than unadult rated victory, then are we not, in fact merely on a steady as she goes hope for a miracle and in the meantime sustain the appearance of not losing? because we will not actually accept a victory that isn't --
that doesn't look like, you know, august of 1945. so that's my observation. and one quick question. going back to max's anecdote. i think i got this quote right, max. you can correct me. sir, he doesn't think we're welcome here. or words to that effect. right? this was being translated, right? sir, he doesn't think we're welcome here. and so my question to the panelists is does that matter? how much does it matter whether we're welcome here? machivelli said it's better to be fair in love. we you will know the change of the rules in engagement that have been improved by president trump are increasing the civilian incidents inside of
afghanistan. the goal of the u.s. military is to strike the right people and i respect that. we have weakened and softened the rules of engagement to increase the likely hood of civilian casualties. how much does it matter how much support we're getting inside of the government and does not a strategy that requires us to use force in a more permissive way than we did under the rules mostly put in place by general mccrystal, does that in itself cut against the goal of being able to stay there as, mike, you say indefinitely? and to be tolerated indefinitely. i'll just throw that question to the four of you very quickly and then i'll open it up to the audience. >> you have a particular order in mind? >> not really. max can go first because i'm looking at him first. >> i'll say a couple things. the issue as american assistance is sometimes considered a panitia of support. an air strike is awesome. the idea that somewhere without
any sort of danger somewhere above knows exactly where it needs to shoot and it shoots and the thing where we wanted to destroy is destroyed. it's deceptive in a lot of ways. the difficult in being able to discern targets. the difficulty in being able to make sure that the people on the ground have identified the proper target. a lot of this is -- those are its own challenges. one of the primary issues i have with that is that afghans don't have air support. there's no afghan air support that's able to provide this air support. if we're talking about training an organization to be able to survive on its own without continuing american support, air strikes are probably not the solution. solution is teaching them how to use their indirect fire assets and how to maneuver and fire and fight on the ground in those situations. the solution is not teach them as afghans who are not going to have this once the american with the radio leaves. the solution is not to teach
them hey f you're under fire, hunker down, wait for the air strike to come and clean up the body parts. that's not how that works. that's not good military strategy. it's not good military tactics. it's unfortunately what we teach whenever we're in a bad situation. that's what we're instructing the afgahans are fighting alongside. don't worry, america's coming and we're going to bring a bomber. we're not going to be there all the time. >> three quick points in response to your question about our long term staying power or the welcome we receive as i see it. point number one, overall public opinion in afghanistan towards the united states has always know much better than iraq, but that's relative to a pretty low standard. it's deteriorated with time. afghans were extremely pro american in the years right after 9/11. those numbers in the years that steve and i were i think most frequently there, the numbers
were often somewhere around 50%. and now they're probably continuing to decline as people get frustrated with the war. second point, there are still a number of afghan officials, reformers, leaders who want us there either because they know they're not yet up to doing the job themselves. they need to build the air force or what have you. or because we provide a little bit of an honest broker effect, even among people who don't like us, they still know we're not taking sides. we don't have favorites. that's why part of the iraqis tolerate us. the third point is, and i'll be we a w weary was afghan support. we are the sugar daddies. that is a fundamental challenge to the mission. despite my slight hope, there is still a huge amount of corruption in afghanistan. so a lot of people want us there
for the wrong reasons. >> a quick word on each of your two points. starting on the are we welcome here point, foreign troops are never welcome. they are often tolerated, however, when the population believes that they're bringing something that wouldn't be there otherwise. maybe that's money. more commonly it's security. the province in iraq is fascinating. it's relevant to afghanistan as well. in troop numbers too small to actually stabilize the country, we were perceived as causing the violence and we were lethally unwelcome. when violence then declined and the perception was that the american surge had something to do with this, the american presence then was tolerated. i was able to walk through without body armor, with an american patrol, and, you know, people weren't throwing rose petals in our path. we weren't going to win any popularity contest, but our
presence was tolerated because it was perceived that our presence was the price of an end to the violence. people wanted the violence over. the worst case to be in is when you're there in numbers large enough to be irritating but small enough -- too small to solve the problem. unfortunately that's kind of where we have been in afghanistan a great deal of the time. i'm fine in quoting woodson. i've only done it once so far. he once said no one crossing a wide chasm would begin by jumping halfway. the problem with these sort of halfway presences is that they're enough to create anti-bodies. they're not enough to provide anything that the population think is worth that cost. that has not always been true. our presence in germany and south korea, we've been presence in other places where the response has been different because people thought we were defending them from the soviet union or north korea and they valued something in exchange for
the indignity of foreign troops on your soil. with respect to would americans ever be willing politically to tolerate a deal with the taliban, obviously i think in principle the answer could be yes, but isn't necessarily. i cited the case for a reason. the case for arguing that it might be possible with a proper amount of political investment and engineering would be, first of all, it has always been striking to me, at least in the last ten years how close to completely invisible the war in afghanistan has been in american domestic politics. people periodically make claims that the american public doesn't want the presence in afghanistan. when polled the american public typically prioritizes afghanistan 12th out of 10 in things that they want their elected official working on. to a remarkable degree in american politics and to a
degree in the history of democracy waging wars, afghanistan is largely a vote of conscience for practically every elected official. and given that its political sa salience is soly, i think it's susceptible to some degree of political engineering to reduce the down side political risk of a settlement by pointing out to key committee chairmen, by pointing out to people in your own party. this president theoretically is a republican. the opposition to the bergdoll deal was overwhelmingly republican. it's not impossible to imagine that a president who cared enough about the outcome to spend money and risk lives would be willing to make the political effort to persuade republicans on capitol hill that the alternative to this deal is
outright failure. i think you could imagine someone willing to invest that kind of capital, persuading enough key voices from his own party on capital hill to make a deal sustainable. it will not happen on auto pilot. it won't happen if you spring a deal on people that involves, you know, concessions to the hated taliban at the last minute and provide opportunities for lots of people who have become quite irritated at you for various reasons to take advantage of the occasion. it requires some degree of seriousness. >> eric has yielded back the balance of his time. so we do have a few minutes here. a few ground rule which is should sound familiar to you here at the cato institute. we abide by the jeopardy rule. that means question are in the form of a question. no speeches, please.
please wait for the microphone for the benefit of those watching online and on cspan. please identify yourself and your affiliation. i'm going to group the questions together in two. right here and then right there. go ahead, sir. >> my question is the following. i agree with the analysis about the negotiation. i haven't heard anyone speak about the other parties who have to come to this table, which is the afghan government and historically fractionated tribal structure which has an influence. i agree that longer term or intermediate or maybe even shorter term is the right strategy. how do you convince these two other groups that it is in their best interest to yield? >> mr. goepner, you talked about
is it worth the struggle. do you imagine that you would need to negotiate your way out or just get out? the second comment, i worked 15 years up in the senate and i noticed recently senator keenan, the senator from rand paul bipartisan got 39 votes on a new resolution authorized military force because people are concerned about the united states being involved in all these foreign conflicts. the politics of this issue is changing. >> i think that first question is mostly to you, steve, and then eric, go ahead. >> as far as getting the afghan government involved, one of the reasons why i said the settlement isn't coming in six months or a year or two is because any negotiation theorist would look and say this is going to be a complicated negotiation because there's so many parties involved and the afghan
government is ant a monolithic participant. the regions of the country are very nervous about what will be negotiated away in this kind of settlement and have been historically opposed to negotiating. the southern area and in particular the eastern have been much more supportive and so there's an internal domestic horse trading process that's going to have to occur within the afghan government before they can formulate a consistent negotiating stance. now, part of this internal negotiating process, which is going to be mostly afghan, we'll try and influence it at the m g margin and shape it, of course, but at the end of the day this is going to be a horse trading process largely within the afghan side of the talks. part of this will be i suspect tacitly identifying red lines that the government will not go below in the compromises they're
willing to make. so things like girls education, for instance, which are -- is much more favored in the north of the country than in the south. might very well constitute a red line. things like governorship control. probably will be and should be a red line that the afghan government should not be willing to negotiate a taliban governorship. so part of the process presumably is quietly internal to the afghan side. the afghan president, whoever it is at that time, making it clear to political leaders, especially in the north but to some extent in the west, that there are red lines that they are not going to go below and your interests as ours will be respected. part of this also, however, is necessarily going to be horse trading. the united states is probably going to have to sweeten these kinds of deals.
we have at our disposal for a great deal less than we are now spending for an advisory presence a fair amount of degrees of freedom for deal sweetening. mike is the expert on budgeting so i will trade into this territory only with fear and trembling, but a common kentucky rule of thumb for the cost of keeping an american soldier in a combat zone in a place like a combat zone about $1 million. if we're talking about an adviser presence in the order of 24,000, that's about 24 billion a year right that. reduce that by 10,000 and you make available a lot of economic aid that can be used to create incentives for internal parties within afghanistan to be willing to cooperate with a compromise deal. but note that this is a very complicated political engineering process. which is one of the several reasons why i find it so frustrating that we've basically
depopulated a fair part of the apparatus of the u.s. government that would normally be expected to do the political intelligence work and the negotiating work and the management of this kind of a complicated process. because it's very complicated. >> eric k you speak to the second question? >> in terms of negotiator just withdraw absent a negotiation, i think either way from an american perspective is fine. essentially argument that we would make is that the u.s. military presence, as noble as it is, is causing some of the problems. by removing u.s. military forces we're taking a positive action to lower the hatred grievance against the united states. if you go back to al qaeda, we're not their primary enemy. the only reason they came and struck us, their argument was if
we don't strike the far enemy, we'll never be able to sup plant our near enemy which is our overall goal. my argument is the withdrawal of force system a positive step for the united states to decrease the amount of terror activity or interest directed towards us. so whether it's concurrent with negotiation or absent negotiation from an american perspective, i don't think it matters. to go back to a previous point, i definitely agree this is a generational struggle. i think we misidentify whose generation the struggle is for. this is all about grievance, political power, frustration, goal achievement in the middle east or central asia. none of these groups are fundamentally about coming to the united states. that's not any of their mission statements to the best of my knowledge. they only do it as a target of opportunity to get some other local goal they're trying to achieve. >> should we have a vote on a new authorization using military force? >> yes. yes, as good government.
>> yes, but i don't want to see the existing one lost if we fail to get a new one. >> i would abstain from that one. >> understood. >> two more questions. i saw a hand right back there and then there. go ahead right >> go ahead. you first. >> hi. i'm a visiting fellow here at cato. i have a couple of questions. one is for professor owe hanlan. you discussed in your remarks how afghanistan could serve as a u.s. strategic ally. i wonder how in your assessment they feel about this. is this something they want. is this something they aworking towards? or is this the price they sort of have to pay for security in the long run? and this is also for the whole panel. can you discuss the economy and its reliance on the opium trade? the u.n. office of drug and crime reported a 43% increase last year. and i wonder what kind of effect that would have on any kind of
negotiation or settlement with the taliban. >> yes, sir, go ahead. >> this will be our last question, unfortunately. >> my names is charles oliver. i'm with usa, a foreign service officer. i spent almost six years in afghanistan. took a year off to recuperate. so i saw quite a bit between 2009 and 2015, and i was the scr in kandahar when we closed down our civilian platform. during the midst of all of this, i saw obviously quite a bit. and there is one kind of glorious moment in the middle where we had a joint strategy in rces. i was heading a task force down there. so i'm kind of wondering where the 3-d is in all of this thinking. where we have this military strategy being cooked up -- i came from another meeting where they were talking about the national security strategy, not quite there yet. and is that even in your calculus? we have people that are sitting in kabul now for a year, and do
not even see beyond the t walls of the embassy. >> max, do you want to take either of those? >> yeah, i'll discuss a little bit in terms of the opium economy that has developed in afghanistan. frankly, zabul, my first little experience in afghanistan, they spent a significant amount of time building or having grapes. grapes used to be famous. they have grapes, and i think it was pears? they had another fruit. it grew on a tree. basically, you take -- it took -- but the important part of that is, in terms of grapes, you need to make sure that nobody destroys your vineyard during the year that you're growing grapes. for the trees, fruit that came off the trees -- apricots. that was the one. you can sell it for as much as opium, and a lot of those areas. however, it took five or six years before it would actually give fruit. so if you're in afghanistan and you're making an investment with
an expected return in six years, you're a fool. because that was not -- i mean, there was no reason for them to believe that in six years they were able to do it. opium, i think it was two harvests a year. that's a lot of money. and they had a willing buyer. so i can say a little bit of experience. in 2011, down in kandahar accident being there, we had american bases in the middle of vast feels of marijuana, and we were eradicating drugs, but it didn't solve the problem. there was no alternative to that. and so we spent a little bit of time in 2010 trying to develop with the usda, this is how you make your yields of other crops more productive. but until the u.s. -- or until the afghan government has a secure hold on the country, and they can say, hey, this is illegal and therefore your next best alternative is this other -- this other crop, they're probably not going to change, because in the end, these are families that have existed. they don't want the government to be involved in their life. they have existed for a long
time. providing for their own families. they don't have anybody to fall back on. and if opium is how they get to that, they're probably going to continue growing opium until something tells them they can't. >> david, do you want to take either of the other two questions? >> very quickly, since one was posed to me directly. i'll say that we don't know for sure what the afghan political system would say about a long-term security partnership. i'm not proposing a treaty, but a long-term partnership. i think it would be good to put it to the test politically within afghanistan. so i think some kind of a negotiation that produced the outlines of a treaty upon which then politicians in afghanistan could debate and campaign. ultimately would be the best way to test your question. my sense is, overall, afghans would welcome a security partnership with the united states, because most feel that they are too weak and they need help. and that -- by the way, very quickly on the points you raised about a need for a broader strategy, sirs, and i admire your service. six years is a long time in afghanistan. you're right. we haven't done full justice to it today, especially one like
me, defending the overall presence. i will mention that we have to keep fighting corruption and supporting the afghan government. i have talked about that earlier today. we have to a lot about the upcoming elections, the independent oversight boards are not yet strong enough to do a better job than they did in 2014. so i'm very worried about that. the pakistan dimension is part of a broader strategy, and then finally, the idea of getting reformers to come back home, which is part of my perceived need to reverse the sense of momentum and perception in the security trends. i want to see those young afghan reformers come home to do what you're alluding to with the broader strategy. so those are just the beginnings of doing justice to your question. >> either? no? well, i'm afraid we are out of time. i want to thank the panelists for their comments. thank all of you for attending and for watching. for those of you here with us today, please join us on the second floor in the conference center for lunch and continued discussion. and with that, thank you all very much for attending.
this afternoon, former president barack obama attends a campaign rally for lieutenant governor, ralph norton, who is running for virginia governor. that rally takes place in richmond, and it starts live at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. and tonight, remarks from house speaker, paul ryan, at the annual al smith dinner in new york city. that's an event that supports catholic charity groups, especially those that assist needy children in new york. see the speaker's comments live at 8:40 p.m. eastern, also on c-span. you can also watch online at c-span.org, or listen on the free c-span radio app. and the house may be in recess this week, but senators are in session, working on the
2018 budget resolution. the legislation would assume $5 trillion in spending cuts over ten years. while the congressional budget office saying the plan would cut the deficit in half over that time. senators have been working on amendments all day with several votes happening this evening. the final passage vote is expected late tonight. as always, follow the senate live on c-span 2. this weekend on american history tv on c-span3, a look at controversial union and confederate generals during a live discussion from pamp long historical park, starting saturday at 9:00 a.m. and sunday at 9:15 eastern. saturday at 10:00 p.m. on "real america," the january 1968 weekly series, abc "scope" examines resistance to the vietnam war and the draft. >> we live in the middle of a beast. lyndon johnson is a common
murderer and should be arrested for murder. there are no limits to dissent. i think the peace movement should have the anger of the vietnamese women whose child was burned by napalm, dropped by american planes, way up there in the sky. that's the anger that peace movement should reflect. the peace movement has got to go into the streets, and it's got to use the tactic of disruption. because the american people are drunk with apathy. >> and on sunday at 7:00 p.m. eastern on "oral histories," we continue our series on photo journalists with diana walker, former "time"i magazine white house photographer. >> i felt that i should accept their offers to be behind the scenes. every time they offered it. because any time you see the president of the united states behind the scenes, you learn something about the president. and you see something. and it is important -- i can be